Robotic Technology Purchases Beta Biomass Engine System From Cyclone Power Technologies for Use in Series Hybrid Power System
|Rendering of EATR. Click to enlarge.|
Cyclone Power Technologies Inc., the developer of an external combustion engine (earlier post), has received a contract from Robotic Technologies Inc. (RTI), of Potomac, MD, to develop a beta biomass engine system which will be used in a series hybrid subsystem in RTI’s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR), a project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Defense Sciences Office.
The EATR is an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance military missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling. The system is designed to obtain its energy by foraging—engaging in biologically-inspired, organism-like, energy harvesting behavior which is the equivalent of eating.
The patent pending robotic system can find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil and solar) when suitable.
Cyclone brings to this project one of the most advanced external combustion engine technologies we have seen. In terms of power-to-size ratio, scalability and fuel flexibility, the Cyclone engine is ideal for a self-sustaining, autonomous intelligent robotic vehicle designed for unique military or civil applications.—Dr. Robert Finkelstein, President of RTI
The Cyclone engine uses an external combustion chamber to heat a separate working fluid (de-ionized water) which expands to create mechanical energy by moving pistons or a turbine (i.e., Rankine cycle steam engine). Combustion is external so engine can run on any fuel (solid, liquid, or gaseous).
|Example EATR architecture. Click to enlarge.|
The Cyclone engine’s combustion chamber is configured to create a rotating flow that facilitates complete air and fuel mixing, and complete combustion, so there are very low emissions, and less heat is released. The engine does not require a catalytic converter, radiator, transmission, oil pump or lubricating oil (water lubricated). All this results in decreased engine size and weight, and increased efficiency and reliability.
In the proof-of-concept, the Cyclone engine will drive a generator to produce electric current for a rechargeable battery pack, which will power the sensors, processors and controls, and the robotic arm/end effector (battery ensures continuous energy output despite intermittent biomass energy intake). The engine will not provide mobility power for vehicle for proof-of-concept, but will for the EATR prototype.
RTI calculates that about 3-12 lbs of dry vegetation (wood or plants) used as fuel in the Cyclone will produces 1 kWh. This equates to 2-8 miles driving, or more than 80 hours of standby, or 6-75 hours of mission operations (depending on power draw and duty cycle) before EATR would need to forage, process and generate/store power again. About 150 lbs of vegetation could provide sufficient energy for 100 miles of driving.
This development project is expected to have two phases. In Phase I, Cyclone will build and deliver within six months the engine with a biomass combustion chamber for demonstration purposes. Cyclone believes that its radial six-cylinder, 16 hp Waste Heat Engine (WHE) system is ideally suited for this application. In Phase II, Cyclone would build and deliver the biomass trimmer/gatherer and feeder system to work with its engine power source.
According to RTI, the EATR demonstration project can lead to three potential commercialization projects:
The development of prototype and operational EATR systems for military and civil applications;
New civil and military applications for the autonomous intelligent control system; and, most relevant for Cyclone,
Development of the hybrid external combustion engine system for civil and military automotive applications, whether for manned or unmanned vehicles.
Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot project overview